The 19th Hole Interview: Russell Knox

He is the man currently living the American dream. Inverness-born Russell Knox is flying the saltire proudly on the US PGA Tour, ever growing in stature.

A former Scottish youth international in his amateur days, Knox has now moved into the world’s top 100, making him Scotland’s fourth highest-ranked player on the global stage behind Stephen Gallacher, Marc Warren and Richie Ramsay. During the past year, Knox lost out in a play-off at the Honda Classic and posted eight top-25 finishes, and has begun the new 2015 season in similar vein.

In our latest big name interview at the 19th hole, the 29-year-old talks all things golf and much more as he looks to keep his career on an upward spiral…

Russell, you have made a great start to the 2015 season in America, sitting 20th in the FedEx standings. How pleased are you with your form?

Russell Knox

Knox is climbing the golfing world’s ladder

RK: “I’m pretty pleased with my form. Of course, I can’t complain finishing solo 3rd in Vegas. I played well this fall, but made too many silly mistakes so my scores were a little higher than they should have been. I am a little disappointed with that. However, in terms of the bigger picture, it’s been a great start to the 2015 season.”

Your confidence must be high, do you think a win could be around the corner soon?

RK: “Winning is the ultimate goal. My game has improved steadily over the last couple of years so winning is definitely closer. Of course, it’s extremely hard to finish first, but yes I think I am capable. I sure hope it happens in 2015.”

You appear to have made steady progress in the US, climbing from 398th in the world rankings in June 2013 to now inside the top 100. You clearly enjoy life in America…

RK: “Life in the USA is great. I love it here. My father is from California (mother is Scottish), so I have USA in my blood I guess. I miss Scotland, but I’m very happy living in Florida.”

How much has Martin Laird inspired you in recent years, given his successes?

RK: “Martin has been motivation for me, along with all the other Scottish players competing in Europe. Scott Jamieson has pushed me also. We played a few times when he briefly lived over here. It’s always great to see the Scottish flag on the leaderboard regardless which country it is. Hopefully us Scots can start winning more.”

What are your goals for 2015? Breaking into the world’s top 50 to get into the Majors?

RK: “Cracking the top 50 in the world is a huge goal. I think it is possible but of course you have to earn it with stellar play. I’m in the position now that a victory would put me very close. As long as I’m working closer to that number I’ll be happy. Slow and steady wins the race and I’ll wait patiently until my game is ultimately ready to compete at the highest level. Hard work and I should hopefully be there soon.”

Thinking further ahead, is the 2016 Ryder Cup on your radar at Hazeltine, given you are playing the majority of your golf in the US?

RK: “The Ryder Cup at Gleneagles was a huge goal. Obviously I didn’t make it, however I am heading in the correct direction. Playing in a future Ryder Cup would be incredible. I’m definitely going to work as hard as I can in order to make that happen. It would be a dream come true. I would have to play more in Europe in order to make the team, so cracking the top 50 in the world would be crucial in being successful.”

You played in Scottish Golf Union amateur events. What are the highlights from your amateur days and how much did the SGU help you progress?

Martin Laird

3-time US PGA Tour winner Martin Laird inspires Knox

RK: “My best finish in SGU amateur events was finishing just outside the top 10 in the Scottish Stroke Play at Royal Aberdeen. I say that because it was really the first event I played well in and was a huge confidence booster for me. The SGU really helped my career by picking me to play in the European Youths in Spain in 2006. It was for sure the turning point in my golfing career.

“I realized there how good my teammates were (Lloyd Saltman for example) and players from all the other countries. It was an eye opener for me – improve a lot or give up. I rededicated myself and worked harder. I worked with coaches to help me, started working out, worked on the mental game. I’m so glad I went to Spain and struggled. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t play on that team. Thank you, SGU.”

You are now Scotland’s 4th ranked leading professional. Is becoming Scotland’s No 1 a goal?

RK:”It would be cool to be the No 1 Scottish golfer but it’s not something I really check. As long as I keep improving and playing well things will work out. It would be great to have lots of us competing for the prize.”

Can we expect to see you back performing on Scottish soil in 2015? The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane and The Open at St Andrews?

RK: “I will be playing the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane in 2015. I can’t wait to come back again. I had such a great time playing at Royal Aberdeen this year, I never want to miss another Scottish Open. Getting to play in The Open at St Andrews would be the icing on the cake. Hopefully I will make the field.”

How much do you miss Scotland? We saw a picture on Twitter recently of your family meeting up together in the US, including with your DJ sister, Diane.

RK: “I do miss Scotland. It’s the food. Bacon, crisps, chocolate and, of course, my sister. It’s great to come back.”

Finally, what would your advice be to leading amateurs keen to succeed as a professional?

RK: “Personally, I’ve enjoyed my US experiences. The competition in the college circuits is incredible. Also, you can work on your game all year round in the warmer states like Florida. Playing in as many tournaments as possible is the only way you get to learn to deal with pressure and expectations – college golf in the US provides that. Also, when you do turn pro there are many tours you can play on to improve your game and process up the ladder.”

Thanks Russell! All the best for the season ahead!